PITTSBURGH -- Le'Veon Bell makes clear he needs to “grow up and move forward” after his three-game suspension for marijuana, but there’s an important distinction attached to that.
His football routine hasn’t changed. He needed to grow up by making better choices. Basically, he needed to stop smoking, a sentiment he alluded to in a May interview with ESPN’s Josina Anderson and echoed in a post-practice interview with ESPN on Wednesday.
Since he has stopped smoking, he hasn’t noticed a difference in his preparation because he already prepared diligently in two years with the Steelers.
“I do the same things,” Bell said. “Regardless of what happened off the field, that doesn’t change what I do on the field and my performance.”
That performance makes the case for Bell becoming the NFL’s best all-around back with 2,215 offensive yards in 2014. From eating egg whites to occasional 5 a.m. wakeups, here are football habits Bell has practiced since becoming a pro in 2013.
On how he has developed into a reliable receiver (83 catches last year): “Knowing when to break in on option routes, when to hook it up, when to break it out, identifying the defense. Obviously, catching the ball is big. You don’t get as many opportunities to catch it as a running back so sometimes you’ll drop it. Then, the quarterback might not trust the running back’s hands. All of those elements factor into the games, so Ben [Roethlisberger] now has the confidence to throw me the ball. Even when I may not be open all the way, he throws me open. Now that he trusts me like he trusts his wideouts, the sky is the limit."
On playing naturally: “When I used to drop the ball, it was because of concentration, trying to run before I caught the ball. I got way better from college to the NFL, I’m glad I will continue to grow with it. Now I can make moves and I’m not thinking when I touch the ball; it happens naturally because I practice at it so much.”
On touching the ball ‘however many times necessary to win the game’: “Some games I have 12 or 13 touches and we win the game, I’m fine with that. Some games I’ll have 35 touches and we’ll win the game. I’m fine with that, too.”
On body recovery: “I definitely stick to a diet, get a lot of massages, a lot of MAT [muscle activation techniques], training room, stretching, rolling out my legs, making sure joints and muscles are working so I don’t come out to practice feeling tired. I always try to stay loose."
On an NFL vet teaching him how to live right: "Jerricho Cotchery, that’s who I followed. I watched him every day as a rookie. He’d stretch and get in the ice tub, get in the hot tub, he always was getting himself right. I kind of took his routine. That’s why I’ve been able to stay healthy. In college I was younger so I didn’t really know or learn what to do. You think you are taking care of your body because you’re sitting in the ice tub for 2 minutes. Now, I do 18 or 20. Now, I go to the training room or the stretching room even when something’s not hurt. It’s all about prevention. If I’m even a little tight or sore, I work things out."
On his diet secrets: “My go-to, I eat a lot of boiled eggs, egg whites. A lot of people like chips or candy, I just cook eggs. I have a chef for my main meals but when he’s not there, rather than go to the store and grab chips, I will eat grapes or a banana or egg whites."
On sleeping habits: “Sleep helps me stop eating. When you wake up in the morning, you have your breakfast, that’s great, but if I’m not staying on my diet, I’ll eat late and then go to sleep on it, and that’s not something I’m supposed to be doing. I try to get 8 hours. If I go to bed at 9, I’m up at 5 naturally. Don’t really need an alarm clock. Sometimes I get six hours. It depends.”